28 Activists Arrested at Kinder Morgan Pipeline Construction Site in British Columbia

deSmog - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 18:06
Protester being arrested at Kinder Morgan's tank farm

By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

Despite a court-ordered injunction barring anyone from coming within 5 meters (approximately 16.4 feet) of two of its BC construction sites, opponents of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion sent a clear message Saturday that they would not back down.

Twenty-eight demonstrators were arrested March 17 after blocking the front gate to Kinder Morgan's tank farm in Burnaby, BC for four hours, according to a press release put out by Protect the Inlet, the group leading the protest.

Tags: Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipelinebritish columbiaalberta tar sands
Categories: News

After Panama Papers, Indonesia urges beneficial owners to come out of hiding

Global Muckracker - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:04

Indonesia beefed up corporate transparency standards this month with a decree that will require all companies to regularly disclose their true, beneficial owners – not just their legal representatives – to authorities.

The new rules, introduced at the beginning of March, target those who reap financial benefits from the companies and are designed to prevent and combat corruption and other illicit activities.

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They respond to three urgencies, a spokesman for the Indonesian financial intelligence agency wrote in an official statement: to protect corporations and shareholders, to assess criminal liability with legal certainty, and to recover assets in an effective manner. Those who violate the provisions will be subject to sanctions, he wrote.

The “catalyst” for this new regulation was the country’s need to comply with international anti-money laundering standards, said Gay Ordenes, Southeast Asia director of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

But, according to Ordenes and other experts, the government began to “feel a sense of urgency to act on” ownership disclosure after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a series of reports exposing how individuals and companies use tax havens to hide money and evade taxes.

Offshore Leaks [in 2013] took us by surprise and then, of course, the Panama Papers,” said Rimawan Pradiptyo, who teaches economics at Gadjah Mada University and works as a consultant for the Indonesian anti-corruption agency.

The revelations from the two investigations prompted a deeper probe by the financial authority, Rimawan said. They also raised awareness on issues such as tax evasion in Indonesia, and “we started thinking how we can try to tackle the problem,” he said.

Overall, more than 3,000 Indonesians were found to have accounts in tax havens, including several politicians and a fugitive who had previously been convicted of corruption, according to ICIJ’s Indonesian partner Tempo.

Last year another ICIJ investigation, the Paradise Papers, also revealed that family members of the late dictator Suharto, a former presidential candidate, and other tycoons had set up offshore companies that were not previously disclosed. Natural resource conglomerates were also found to use complex, albeit legal, tax structures to expand their operations in Indonesia.

With the new law, watchdogs and researchers hope the country will have a tool to fight financial crime, which has been weighing on the country’s welfare and growth.

A 2012 survey found that half of Indonesia’s tax revenue – an estimated $56 billion at the time – may be lost due to corruption. Four years later, The Economist reported that only 27 million people – about ten percent of the country’s population – were registered as taxpayers and that, of those, fewer than one million paid taxes in 2014.

By year-end, Indonesia is also set to join the Automatic Exchange of Information initiative, a global effort to curb tax avoidance and evasion, which enables tax authorities around the world to exchange information on taxpayers’ accounts.

Described as “long-waited” and “ground-breaking,” the recent decree supplements a 2010 anti-money laundering law and defines beneficiaries as those who own at least a 25 percent stake in an legal entity or significantly control it.

It’s “wonderful because it forces people to think about who actually owns the company,” Rimawan said. “It’s a great stepping stone.”

The post After Panama Papers, Indonesia urges beneficial owners to come out of hiding appeared first on ICIJ.

Categories: News

Cooperatives and Worker Buyouts in France

Grassroots Economic Survival - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 16:40
Link: Speaker Notes: Eleonore Perrin (University of Liverpool)

In 2014, the Law on the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS) was enacted. It acknowledges the importance of social economy organisations – cooperatives, mutuals, associations and foundations – in producing wealth and contributing to social and environmental needs. The social economy represents 230,000 enterprises and 10% of GDP. In 2014, this was 2.38 million of employees and 12% of employment in the private sector. Within this, there are 23,000 cooperatives employing one million people and active in all sectors of the economy. Coops represent 40% of the food and agricultural sector, 60% of retail banking and 30% of retail shops. The ESS Law intends on creating a cooperative “shock” with the view to create a multiplier effect.

The law is not unique – it is consistent with existing legislations in Italy, Quebec and Spain. However, it is substantial in length (more than 80 pages) and scope, affecting all sectors of the social economy. Beside the collaboration with the social and solidarity movement in its elaboration, 11 Ministries and 15 Heads of Administration were involved in drafting the law. The fact that one third of the legislation is dedicated to cooperatives alone reflects the strength and commitment of the cooperative movement to this collaboration. The law enumerates the characteristics of the social and solidarity economy as consisting in the not-for-profit purpose (not excluding profit as such but rejecting it as the sole purpose of the enterprise), democratic governance, transparency and participation, sustainable management and the requirement of an asset lock. The exclusion of social criteria per se in favour of the democratic governance characteristic is interesting here and differs from social entrepreneurship approaches. This was particularly critical for the cooperative movement, which had never accepted until then a review of the 1947 legislation, the legal text acquiring a somehow sacred status as the protector of cooperative and solidarity principles in an increasingly liberal economy. The ESS Law reaffirms cooperative principles, referring to the International Cooperative Alliance definition. It stipulates tailored audits for all cooperatives every five years that will focus on the compliance with cooperative principles and legal provisions (rather than conventional financial audits).

Yet, it is in the dispositions towards the facilitation of worker buy-outs and provisions for worker cooperatives that the law is the most ambitious, for example in trying to remedy the lack of access to capital for workers. First, the ESS creates transitional cooperatives, whereby external members (who are not co-operator) can own over 50% of the cooperative’s capital for a period of 7 years in the case of a company being transformed into a cooperative. Workers have seven years to obtain the majority of the capital. If necessary, they can access the indivisible reserves to that effect. In exchange, external members are bound to sell their shares for workers to reach the 50% ownership. This provision is in direct response to the difficulty to access capital during takeovers. It has been implemented once since the passing of the law. In 2015, the two directors of Delta Meca, a company producing machining and industrial tools, decided to transform their company in a worker cooperative by enabling their 32 employees to become members. Workers invested €5,000 to become members, most of them investing the money that had been saved over the years in the company’s employee saving scheme. They will have seven years to obtain the majority of the capital.

Read the rest at Co-operative Business Consultants


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Categories: News

True Value strikes deal with private equity firm for 70% stake

Grassroots Economic Survival - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 16:30
Link: True Value strikes deal with private equity firm for 70% stake

True Value found a private equity firm to take a majority stake in the company on Thursday in a shift away from the hardware company’s cooperative structure.

Acon Investments now owns a 70 percent stake in the Chicago-based retailer. The remaining 30 percent will remain with member retailers who own the cooperative. About $229 million of Acon’s funds will be used to return 70 percent of retailers’ capital, promissory notes and dividends.  


The Acon deal must earn the support of half of True Value’s member retailers in a vote at an upcoming special shareholder meeting on April 13. If it goes through, the deal is expected to close near April 18.

Read the rest at Chicago Business Journal


Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

New Orleans Approves Natural Gas Power Plant Despite Environmental Racism and Climate Concerns

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:50

 © Julie Dermansky)Opponents of Entergy's proposed natural gas power plant pack the March 8 New Orleans City Council meeting. (All Photos: © Julie Dermansky)

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Despite hearing over four hours of public comments mostly in opposition, New Orleans City Council recently approved construction of a $210 million natural gas power plant in a predominantly minority neighborhood. Entergy is proposing to build this massive investment in fossil fuel infrastructure in a city already plagued by the effects of climate change. 

Choosing a gas plant over renewable energy options flies in the face of the city's own climate change plan and the mayor's support for the Paris Climate Accord, said several of the plant's opponents at the heated meeting when City Council ultimately voted to approve the plant.

"It is not enough to plan for how we will adapt to climate change. We must end our contribution to it," wrote Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the introduction to the city's climate action plan. Released in 2017, the plan calls for halving the city's greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

Members of a coalition opposing the plant, formed in 2016 after Entergy first announced its plans, expressed outrage that the council was unwilling to at least postpone its vote after hearing over four hours of public comments, many against it.

This coalition includes residents from New Orleans East, where the plant is slated for construction, community activists, and environmental justice groups.

Members of the New Orleans East Vietnamese community waiting to get into the New Orleans City Council meeting on March 8.Members of the New Orleans East Vietnamese community waiting to get into the New Orleans City Council meeting on March 8.

New Orleans regulates its own utilities, giving the City Council direct oversight of Entergy, the company that provides power to the city. The council's Utility Commission voted to approve the project on February 21, weeks ahead of a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) hearing on March 6 which considered Entergy's air permit application and the full City Council vote on March 8.

Before the public weighed in at the council meeting, the City Council's energy consultants from Dentons US LLP, a Washington, DC-based utility law firm, concluded that the project was in the city's best interest. The consultants determined that the proposed 128-megawatt plant and its seven natural gas-fired engines would ensure the city has enough power at peak energy times and avoid outages that have afflicted the city. 

The plant will be built in New Orleans East, home to predominantly African-American and Vietnamese communities, an area that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has designated as a flood zone.

Among those speaking before the council vote were a few who favored the project, citing jobs and energy security as their reasons for supporting it.

As The Advocate reported: "Entergy officials, meanwhile, listened on the sidelines, rather than actively defending their proposal as they have done for months."

Rev. Willy Gabriel, pastor of West Baptist Church, speaking in support of Entergy’s gas power plant surrounded by others who support the plant.Rev. Willy Gabriel, pastor of West Baptist Church, speaking in support of Entergy's gas power plant surrounded by others who support the plant.

Other concerns raised about the plant centered on environmental racism for siting yet another industrial project in a community of color and its potentially harmful effects on the environment and public health.

Happy Johnson, author and humanitarian, rebuked the council's Utility Commission for pushing for a vote before the LDEQ's hearing. "A vote in favor of a gas plant proposal before an air quality hearing is like getting on a boat with holes in it [or] flying a plane without a pilot," Johnson said. "It does not give people in the community faith at all. It is an irresponsible government practice."

Councilmember-at-Large Jason Rogers Williams, who at times was confrontational with speakers during the New Orleans City Council meeting on March 8.Councilmember-at-Large Jason Rogers Williams, who at times was confrontational with speakers during the New Orleans City Council meeting on March 8.

By the time the council voted 6-1 in favor of the project, only its opponents appeared to remain in the room.

Afterward, council members offered explanations for refusing to delay the vote and for their support of the project, trying to justify their actions to the crowd.

Councilmember Susan Guidry was the lone "no" vote. She said she voted against the plant because not only will it contribute to climate change, she doesn't believe it will solve New Orleans' energy outage issues. "The cost of the plant will be on your bills for the next 30 years," Guidry said. "The plant's technology would likely be obsolete before you finish paying for it."

While Guidry agreed with the consultants' finding, which said "Entergy has a critical and urgent reliability issue that needs to be addressed," she doesn't believe allowing the company to build a new gas plant will address that issue. Instead she stressed the need to fix the deteriorating transmission and distribution system that has caused thousands of power outages. 

Forest Bradley-Wright with the Alliance for Affordable Energy and several other speakers at the meeting concurred. As he explained in an editorial in The Advocate: "Issues with our transmission and distribution problems, not lack of power, caused 100 percent of the outages we experienced. Entergy's proposed plant would not have prevented any of them."

While the rest of the council had misgivings about the plant and expressed disappointment that Entergy failed to propose more than one option, as instructed, the six who voted for it accepted the consultants' conclusion that the plant would be in the city's best interest.

Mayor-elect and current councilmember LaToya Cantrell said she feels that the city needed to do something now, and though she didn't like that Entergy did not propose other solutions, the council needed to take it, claiming that a "yes" vote was their only responsible option. 

Fracking, the Elephant in the Room

Josh Fox, Oscar-nominated filmmaker of Gasland, weighed in at the meeting. He warned the council about the impacts the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry has already had on the climate and environment. Supporting new natural gas infrastructure projects over renewable energy runs counter to the Democratic platform, he told them. Most natural gas produced in the US today is extracted via fracking.

Though the Obama administration claimed that natural gas was a "bridge fuel" to cleaner energy sources, scientists since have linked rising natural gas production in North America to the increase in global methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. 

In March 2017, a study by researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund found that natural gas power plants put out between 20 and 120 times more methane pollution than previously believed, due in part to accidental leaks and deliberate "venting." And as far back as 2011, researchers from Cornell University warned that switching from coal to gas could be a grave mistake for the climate.

Environmental Racism

Residents of New Orleans East, a predominantly African-American and Vietnamese neighborhood, are no strangers to what they say is clear environmental racism.

During Hurricane Katrina, their community was one of the hardest hit in the city, and among the last to recover.

Opponents of Entergy’s natural gas plant at the New Orleans City Council meeting.Opponents of Entergy's natural gas plant at the New Orleans City Council meeting.

Many Vietnamese residents, whose distrust of the city's interpreter prompted the community to choose its own, brought up the council's decision after Hurricane Katrina to place a hurricane debris landfill near the Village de l'Est community. They say that project brought with it toxic fumes and health risks and that a new toxic project was not welcome. 

Elders in the community worry about impacts the plant would have on their children's health. Cam Tran lifted Christina Tran, age 5, up to the podium so she could have her say. "Please protect us from harm," the child said.

Christina Tran addresses the New Orleans City Council before the vote on Entergy’s gas plant.Christina Tran addresses the New Orleans City Council before the vote on Entergy's gas plant.

Larry J. Morgan, an 85-year-old African-American retiree, told the council that if they allow the plant to be built they would be responsible for the deaths of unborn babies, alluding to studies raising questions about the effects of natural gas development on pregnant women and infants.

Larry J. Morgan called the New Orleans City Council murderers after they voted to approve Entergy’s natural gas power plant.Larry J. Morgan called the New Orleans City Council "murderers" after they voted to approve Entergy's natural gas power plant.

And Pearl Cantrell, a white New Orleans resident with the 600-member Kenilworth Civic Association, confronted race head on: "Please, do not put what you don't want anywhere else in New Orleans East."

Battle Against the Gas Plant to Continue

In the week preceding the council meeting, the coalition against the plant held numerous events aimed at stopping the project's approval. They staged a rally at New Orleans City Hall on March 3 before boarding buses for Killona, Louisiana, in the heart of Cancer Alley. There, they held a protest march that traveled past Entergy's Waterford 3 Nuclear Power Plant and ended at the Holy Rosary Cemetery in Hahnville, next to a Dow Chemical plant.

Pat Bryant (left) leading a march on River Road in the middle of Louisiana’s Cancer Alley against Entergy’s proposed gas plant and environmental racism. Behind the marchers is Entergy’s Waterford 3 Nuclear Power Plant.Pat Bryant (left) leading a march on River Road in the middle of Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" against Entergy's proposed gas plant and environmental racism. Behind the marchers is Entergy's Waterford 3 Nuclear Power Plant.

Protest march in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley against Entergy’s proposed gas plant.Protest march in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" against Entergy's proposed gas plant.

Bryant, one of the march's leaders, told me how Cancer Alley got its name. Roughly thirty years ago when leading a march on the same route, he helped come up with the unofficial name for the 85-mile industrial corridor stretching from Baton Rouge to New Orleans that is home to a large portion of the nation's petrochemical production.

Since that time, state regulators, including the current head of LDEQ, Chuck Carr Brown, point to the state's cancer registry to try to debunk the claim that Louisiana has a "Cancer Alley." The Louisiana Tumor Registry "doesn't show any elevated levels of cancer at all in any group of people," Brown said at a parish council meeting in St. John the Baptist, across the Mississippi River from where the group marched. 

But many assert that the tumor registry's data don't give an accurate picture because it uses larger population groupings, which include many people who are not living in close proximity to the corridor's industrial plants, diluting cancer reports from those who do.

Sylvia McKenzie at the state Department of Environmental Quality air quality permit hearing for Entergy’s gas plant in New Orleans East on March 6.Sylvia McKenzie at the state Department of Environmental Quality air quality permit hearing for Entergy's gas plant in New Orleans East on March 6.

Packed house at LDEQ’s air quality permit hearing for Entergy’s gas plant in New Orleans East on March 6.Packed house at LDEQ's air quality permit hearing for Entergy's gas plant in New Orleans East on March 6.

In a final push against the plant, many from the coalition arrived hours early to assure entry to the March 8 council meeting. By the time the council approved the plant, coalition members felt utterly let down, with some leaving the emotional meeting wiping away tears.

Gathering outside New Orleans City Hall after City Council voted to approve Entergy's gas plant.Gathering outside New Orleans City Hall after City Council voted to approve Entergy's gas plant.

Afterward, Johnson* gathered everyone in a circle in front of City Hall, where the group prayed together and vowed to regroup and fight on. 

The stakes are high. Many believe their lives, as well as the city's future, hang in the balance.

The coalition against the gas plant shows the colors of their hands, celebrating their racial diversity after the New Orleans City Council meeting March 8.The coalition against the gas plant shows the colors of their hands, celebrating their racial diversity after the New Orleans City Council meeting March 8.

*Update 3/14/18: This story originally incorrectly identified Bryant as leading the gathering. We regret the error.

Categories: News

Jared Kushner, RIP: A Political Obituary for the President's Son-in-Law

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:47

 Alex Wong / Getty Images)Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser and son-in-law of President Trump, listens during a meeting between Trump and congressional members in the cabinet room of the White House, February 13, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

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Here we are a little more than a year into the Trump presidency and his administration's body count is already, as The Donald might put it, "unbelievable, perhaps record-setting."

Among the casualties are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; my former boss at Goldman Sachs, economic policy chief Gary Cohn; National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; FBI Director James Comey; White House Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer; four other communications directors including Hope Hicks who, having been Ivanka Trump's confidante, was elevated to the status of the president's "real daughter" before her own White House exit; chief strategist Steve Bannon; Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; a bunch of other instant relics of Trumpian political history, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Actually, a 200-year-old magnolia uprooted from the White House grounds thanks to the first lady.)

Responding to Hope Hicks' departure and, perhaps subliminally, the rumored future exile of son-in-law Jared Kushner, the president typically half-lamented and half-quipped, "So many people have been leaving the White House. It's invigorating, since you want turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Who's going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?"

Melania has been unavailable for comment on her own possible future place among the fallen of the Trump era. Perhaps, though, she'll hang around and offer her husband a little comfort in Stormy weather, as rumors continue to circulate that his perfectly real daughter and her all-too-real husband may be ousted from the premises.

Not surprisingly, personnel issues seem to be on the president's mind these days. On March 6th, in the East Room of the White House and flanked by the Swedish prime minister, he boasted, "So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House, and I'll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there."

However, with constant media conjectures about yet more departures including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and possibly even White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, there seems to be a predisposition to move out of, not into, this Oval Office. In a remarkably short space of time, President Trump has already achieved a record 43% turnover rate for top-level staff members, some of whom may be jumping ship in hopes of emerging with reputations relatively untarred, while avoiding lengthy prison sentences.

As collateral damage in his world mounts, it seems as if the only members of the Trump Empire, White House division, guaranteed job security are his lawyers and perhaps Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Even that most nuclear of families -- his -- seemed in peril of exploding, as the countdown to Kushner's exit approaches the zero hour. It looks as if we may all have scored front-row seats for the latest you're-fired episode in the White House reality show.

Given the not-if-but-when nature of Kushner's departure from the White House, it's none too soon for media outlets to prepare themselves. With that in mind, here is a prospective political obituary for him.

Bringing Peace to a Riven World

The political career of Jared Kushner met a slow death from unparalleled incompetence, conflicts of interest, and financial sleights of hand. He is survived by his father-in-law Donald Trump and -- though no one knows for how long -- his wife, Ivanka. At age 37, he had held the role of White House senior adviser and assistant to the president since the day Donald Trump entered the Oval Office. Just two months later, his wife agreed to take a similar advisory position. Though together they were reported to be worth a mere $740 million, they generously offered to do their new jobs without pay from a sense of duty to country and the kindness of their hearts -- and also perhaps to avoid running afoul of an anti-nepotism law passed in 1967 when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.

Jared's year-plus in the White House proved another Trump-style record setter, a pro bono financial odyssey of a sort no previous White House had ever witnessed. While traveling the globe to carry out his "duties" and hobnob, negotiate, and pose for endless photo-ops with world leaders from Iraq, China, Israel, and a host of other countries -- a role once upon a time filled by the secretary of state -- the overworked adviser somehow found a few moments to cash in his diplomatic air-miles big time.

In his Rolodex of titles, he would also serve as head of a completely fabricated new entity, the White House Office of American Innovation. In both capacities, he stood ready to change the world, a goal he achieved handily -- if the world you happen to be talking about was his own financial one. And that was no small thing. After all, it's not easy to oversee and advance (or, in his case, even potentially depth charge) your private business interests while lending a hand running the country, not to speak of the world, and freeing your father-in-law to work on his golf stroke.

For example, Kushner attempted to extract from investors in Qatar a modest half-billion dollars in bailout funds for a cratering Manhattan skyscraper, 666 Fifth Avenue, that he had purchased for his family business while still in the private sector. Unfortunately, that particular deal fell through, after which Kushner and his father-in-law happily backed the Saudis in their blockade and quarantine of Qatar.

Taking his business-oriented focus on the road as the White House liaison for peace in the Middle East, Kushner was also tasked with the simple goal of brokering the settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. His familiarity with the region was significant since, among other things, he had gotten at least four major loans from Bank Hapoalim, Israel's largest bank, for the Kushner family real estate company. (Hapoalim is undergoing a criminal probe by the US government for tax evasion services it reportedly provided to its wealthy clients.) Shortly before President Trump's visit to Israel in May 2017, Kushner Companies also received a $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, one of Israel's largest insurers -- and what could be more peaceable than that? As everyone knows, Kushner himself left office just as peace was settling over the region (and the US was moving its embassy to Jerusalem).

China, of course, had been a longtime target of Donald Trump until -- in a similarly diplomatic frame of mind -- Kushner helped organize a fabulous Dover sole dinner at the president's Mar-a-Lago club with Chinese President Xi Jinping last April. He would also prove to be a key figure in smoothing the way for better relations with that rising global superpower -- an approach that just happened to fit perfectly with the Kushner family business. Only a month after that dinner, for example, his sister, Nicole Meyer, was already reportedly pitching the glories of One Journal Square, a Jersey City housing project the Kushner family owns that was in need of $150 million in investments, to a gathering of 100 potential Chinese investors at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Beijing. As part of that pitch, while dropping her brother's name, she offered them a path into the US EB-5 visa program, sometimes referred to as a "citizenship for sale" program, which they could enter through Kushner properties for a mere $500,000 each.

Building brilliantly on his Chinese portfolio, Jared Kushner, too, held private meetings with elite potential Chinese investors in... well, properties like his family's and spent copious time with the Chinese ambassador to the US during and after the election campaign. He allegedly also attended high-level meetings with the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group during the Trump transition period. At the time, Anbang just coincidentally was considering making an investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. Unfortunately, no deal resulted. Since then, the company has been seized by the Chinese government and its chairman prosecuted for "economic crimes." For Kushner, refinancing that single building in New York proved no easier than making peace in the Middle East.

But give him credit: while advising the president, he never stopped looking out for those closest to him (i.e., his family) and never forgot his role as a junior mogul on the make. In the process, he entertained a cast of key bank executives. In an office only doors from the Oval Office, he regularly connected with some of the biggest players on Wall Street, including those at bailout-prone Citigroup, scandal-ridden Deutsche Bank, and the asset-management goliath Blackstone Group. As the Wall Street Journal reported, he also remained in undisclosed business relationships with Goldman Sachs, investor George Soros, and billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel. All three had business stakes in a "real-estate tech startup called Cadre that Kushner co-founded and currently partly owns."

Being the statesman he was, however, there can be little doubt that Kushner attended such meetings purely to explore the state of banking and investment for the sake of the economic well-being of the American people. After all, no portfolio, from the secretary of state's to infrastructure and the opioid crisis, was beyond his skills.

In his brief time in the White House, one thing can be said: his generosity of spirit was second to none. He opened his arms to any financial firm that wanted to help him put the United States on a path back to being great again. (Whatever multi-million-dollar loans to the Kushner family business occurred in the process surely represented no more than a random confluence of events.) Last November, for example, Apollo Global Management, one of the world's largest private equity firms, loaned $184 million to Kushner's family real estate company in order to refinance a mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper. That was after its founder, an adviser to the Trump administration on "infrastructure," met numerous times with Kushner in the White House.

When that sum proved less than adequate for the family's dreams, a far larger company, one that the US government had bailed out during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, stepped in and offered his family firm an even bigger loan. It came from Citigroup, which lent Kushner Companies $325 million to help finance office buildings in Brooklyn. As the New York Times reported, "That loan was made in the spring of 2017, shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the White House with Citigroup's chief executive, Michael L. Corbat."

In all such situations, the appearance of impropriety was at best circumstantial. In his year-plus in the White House, Kushner unfortunately became the subject of "fake news," above all by reporters pushing the absurd idea that his family business had somehow profited by his unpaid position in the Trump administration.

Death in a Revolving Door

Only in February did things start going truly badly for the young presidential adviser. Having held only an interim top-secret security clearance for more than a year while his background check stalled (reportedly due to fears that he might be manipulated by foreign powers over his family's finances), he was suddenly downgraded to "secret" by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, considered anything but a "Javanka" ally. Such a functional demotion meant that he suddenly had less access to key documents and crucial information of governing than the White House calligrapher. In the process, he got pummeled in the media (through no fault of his own, of course).

President Trump was reportedly "frustrated" by that media browbeating, but no less so by Kushner himself. the New York Times, Trump now viewed his son-in-law "as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family's real estate company, and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded." It even began to be rumored that the president had privately asked Chief of Staff Kelly to begin the process of pushing not just Kushner but his own daughter out of the White House. Given the president's well-documented predisposition to turn his back on former loyalists, that proved to be the end of the road. In Trumpian terms, Kushner quickly found himself not six feet out of power, but six feet under it.

It was with deep regret that Jared Kushner left behind his cozy office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and his unfinished masterpiece: peace in the Middle East (and possibly the world). He did, however, retain the Washington residence that the first daughter and he had occupied for $15,000 a month. That humble abode was owned by Chilean mogul Andrónico Luksic, whose mining company happens to be mired in a dispute with the US government over billions of dollars (which, it goes without saying, had no bearing on the Kushners' choice of a dwelling).

In his post-political life, Kushner faces another problem he couldn't solve while in the White House: by January 2019 the Kushner family organization needs to cough up $1.2 billion to save its flagship New York property from defaulting, a building that, despite Kushner's well known savvy when it comes to... well, everything, has been losing money since it was purchased for a record $1.8 billion in 2007. Fortunately, who knows better than the Trump family and by extension the Kushners that, after every possible investor is exhausted, bankruptcy court is always an option.

In the end, Kushner's White House journey was through a door revolving around the instability of Donald Trump's judgment.

And so Jared Kushner's political career ended. Of course, he'll always have, if not Paris, then Jerusalem and the odd trip to Mexico.

He is survived in the White House by his father-in-law and, for the time being, his wife. Meanwhile, that revolving door continues to spin.

Categories: News

Montreal: From #HoMa to #HamOnt: The secret is to round up your loser friends.

Anarchist News - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:31

via act for freedom now

These thugs are no better than the anarchists.

Don’t they know the financial burden that their vandalism will have on the Tower’s landlord?

Don’t they understand that boarded up windows will bring down property values in the neighbourhood around the Tower??

Engaging in this kind of violence just creates lawlessness, and legitimizes the destruction of private property.

When we heard that the Tower got attacked, we had to show our love. Not only because we love anarchist social centres, but because we also live in a city where (as far as we can tell) small hip business owners exist solely to steal your wages, fondle cops, and sell you overpriced shit sandwiches. Fuck the class traitors, fuck the gentrifiers, fuck the police, but still no fucks at all given to broken windows.

Imagine being so mad about another anarchist social centre getting attacked, that you round up your loser friends, cover your faces, and take a siiiiick photo in solidarity.

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info. 

To donate to The Tower’s renovation fund, click here. 

Tags: montrealThe Toweranarchist solidaritycategory: Actions
Categories: News

Santiago, Chile: Anarchist Compañero Juan Flores Sentenced to 23 Years

Anarchist News - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:20

via act for freedom now

On March 15, 2018, the sixth oral criminal court again decided on the life of a person. Imbued with their supposed moral superiority and with the penal code in hand, they performed their mathematical calculations to decide the time in which an individual should remain kidnapped in prison.

Around noon, the court delivered the sentence against compañero Juan Flores for the following crimes:

Attack against the Los Dominicos subway station (action that took place on July 13, 2014): Under the arms control law + 6 crimes of causing non-serious injuries + damages; condemned to 8 years in prison.

Attack against the Subcentro shopping mall (action that took place on September 8, 2014 in which the police were warned minutes before the detonation). Under the anti-terrorist law they condemned him to 15 years.

Simultaneously the court accepted a civil suit executed by 3 people injured during the attack, condemning him to pay 2 million pesos to each of the injured. The judges decided not to charge the costs of the lengthy process to either party.

Recall that in the same judicial process that the compañerxs Nataly and Enrique were absolved of all charges.

This is the first conviction under the anti-terrorist law for explosive attacks since the start of the criminal procedure reforms for more than two decades. The prosecution, after several attempts over the past 10 years to get a conviction under the anti-terrorist law through legal actions, had the said crime ratified by a court for the first time, legitimizing their judicial arsenal of emergency.

Down with the anti-terrorist law and the arms control law!

Down with the police state!

(via Publicacion Refractario, translated by Insurrection News)

Tags: Juan FloresChileanarchist prisonercategory: International
Categories: News

Fifteen Years in Iraq: There Was No Place Safe There, or Here

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:17

It's been 15 years since the Bush-Cheney administration launched the US into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with an ingenious marketing campaign. Now the quagmire they created is wider and deeper by magnitudes but the US continues its pattern of self-destruction. A military father reflects on the cost of those wars to his family and to the country.

 Jon Demlar) Sgt. Francis D. Sommer in Afghanistan, c. 2007. (Photo: Jon Demlar)

September 24, 2003. 

"Are you someplace safe?"

"I'm in Iraq, Mom. There is no place safe."

Even through the static, the echo, the satellite transmission into space and back again, from Mesopotamia all the way to Kansas, we could hear him rolling his eyes.

He was 20 years old, barely not a teenager.

He was supposed to go to Afghanistan. His company in the 10th Mountain Division had been training for Afghanistan for almost a year. My wife Heather and I still naively clung to the notion, in the early months of 2003, that Afghanistan might be safer. Or at least, maybe there was still a good reason for going there.

Our lives changed forever when Francis enlisted in 2002. Suddenly, we found ourselves in an immersion course in "Remedial Army." The Army was new to us. Military life was new. Both my father and Heather's served their tours in World War II before we were born, and then they were done. I had a student deferment during Vietnam.

A year out of high school, Francis had dim prospects. He'd gotten in trouble over a minor drug charge: an ounce of marijuana, two kids in a car smoking up, a squad car's headlights suddenly flaming through the rear window. He was working as a cashier at a hardware store, ducking high school friends who'd show up at his register and ask what his plans were (because if you're working here you must have plans for something better).

But he didn't.

One day he came home with a sheaf of brochures, and within weeks, we were signing papers at the kitchen table with an Army staff sergeant in a stiff Class A uniform and a vaguely mid-Southern accent -- the ubiquitous accent of the Army, we later discovered, no matter where you came from.

This was the slow-motion aftershock of 9/11, rumbling beneath our feet and releasing clouds of patriotism, nationalism and jingoism into the air. Francis wrote to us from Fort Benning about a pro-football player who'd just shown up to start training: a national emblem of self-sacrifice. All Francis gave up was a job in a hardware store. Now Pat Tillman raised the bar for every soon-to-be-recruit from all over the country, no matter his or her prospects.

We'd been attacked. "The Homeland" -- a new phrase in our lexicon -- was threatened, we were told.

Disillusion quickly set in for Francis and many others who deployed to Iraq, and eventually for the nation. Two men from his unit were killed within a month of his arrival. More than 300 American troops had been killed by the time we got that first phone call, and more than 200 since President Bush's May 1, 2003, pronouncement that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Doubts about the reasons for waging war soon arose even among soldiers.

"Support the troops, not the war!" Francis emailed to us from a base not far from Fallujah a couple of weeks after the Abu Ghraib atrocities became breaking news. He'd recently been sent on a nighttime mission to "pick a fight" with insurgents. His company surrounded an Iraqi village and blasted heavy metal at sleeping civilians as they kicked in doors in search of weapons -- which they did not find.

The only consistent objective for this war seemed to be a vague sense that it was somehow about "defending our freedoms," though how Iraqi civilians, who suffered far worse losses than the US invaders, threatened those freedoms was unclear.

Heather and I opposed this war from early on for all of the reasons that were eventually borne out -- from the lies that promoted it to the likelihood that we'd end up in a desert version of Vietnam with no end in sight. But we also had a son deployed there, and now found ourselves balancing opposition to the war against the instinctive hope for his success and all who were with him.

This is not a new conundrum. Many families face this dilemma in every war. Adam Hochschild's fine book, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion: 1914-1918, portrays the lives of the fiery suffragist leader Charlotte Despard, one of the most outspoken opponents of the British entry into The Great War, and her brother, Sir John French, who commanded the British Expeditionary Force. Throughout the horrors and carnage of that war, arguably worsened by her brother's poor decisions, Despard maintained a close and loving relationship with him, writing in 1917, at the depths of the war, "He is, I think, dearer to me than anyone else."

The Bush administration was ingenious at marketing this war -- and turning Americans against one another. Lapel pin flags and yellow-ribbon car magnets were weaponized to promote a war that was, as we saw it, little more than a criminal enterprise on behalf of oil interests and contractors closely tied to the Bush administration.

But more than support, they depended on indifference. Apathy was the mother of all marketing bombs -- encouraging civilians to support the "war on terror" (now synonymous with the Iraq War) by going about their business in "The Homeland" as if there were no war. Go shopping. Play fantasy football. Watch reality shows. Drive bigger cars and buy more of them. Use even more gas.

This was our message to "the terrorists": "We're ignoring you. We've gone to the mall."

And soon, Americans were largely ignoring the war itself, voting Bush and Cheney in for another four years of war because "if we make the wrong choice," as Cheney speciously claimed, "then the danger is that we'll get hit again."

Now, 15 years later, the US is still in Iraq, and the continuing shock waves from the invasion on March 19, 2003, have swept over the Middle East, poisoned our politics and culture, and caused immeasurable tragedy for millions. Imagine what we might have done with the $5 trillion sunk into military operations in the region. Imagine the unlived lives of all the casualties, civilian and military.

We lost Francis not in the wars, but to them. He came home seasoned and decorated and damaged, physically and morally. One of the "invisible walking wounded" -- with hearing loss, a hip injury, kidney damage, cognitive problems, PTSD and a deep sense of moral injury that he eased with drugs and alcohol.

He died alone in a car wreck three years after his discharge -- his blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.

He'd told his recruiter he wanted to do "the hardest things you can do in Army." The recruiter came through. Francis went into the infantry and fought in some of the nastiest places each war could offer. His five years in the Army -- he'd made sergeant -- included a year in Iraq and a 16-month extended tour in Afghanistan, a good chunk of it in the Korengal Valley (the corngall, Francis would say).

The US presence in Iraq may be smaller now, but we are still there, as well as in Afghanistan, with no end in sight, and those countries have devolved into the very chaos about which not only civilians, but a number of high-ranking military officials warned the Bush administration. But even as most of the US discovered too late that we'd been conned on Iraq, we have continued the pattern of self-destruction that got us into both Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.

The quagmire is now wider and deeper by magnitudes.

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Categories: News

What Standing Rock Gave the World

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:10

This Indigenous-led disruption, the awakening resolve that was cultivated at Standing Rock, did not dissolve after February. Rather, it spread in so many different directions that we may never fully realize its reach. The spirit of resistance can easily be found in the half-dozen or so other pipeline battles across the United States. Beyond that, the movement amplified the greater struggle worldwide.

A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, December 5, 2016. (Photo by Michael Nigro / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, December 5, 2016. (Photo by Michael Nigro / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.

It was a show of international solidarity between the Indigenous Sami and the Lakota. "They got tattoos because of the Norwegian money invested in the pipeline," said Jan Rune Måsø, editor of the Sami news division of Norway's largest media company, NRK.

Rune Måsø said the story about the tattoos was just one of about a hundred that his team of journalists covered over the course of the months-long pipeline battle in North Dakota. One of them, "The War on the Black Snake," was awarded top honors at a journalism conference held in Trømsø in November. That story revealed large investments Norwegian banks had made to advance the $3.8 billion energy project, spurring a divestment campaign by the Sami Parliament.

The backstory can be told simply. As early as April 2016, Indigenous activists protested the pipeline's threat to the Standing Rock Sioux's primary water supply, the Missouri River. While battles were fought in federal courts, representatives of hundreds of Indigenous groups from around the world -- the Maori, the Sami, and the Sarayaku, to name a few -- arrived. Temporary communities of thousands were created on the reservation borderlands in nonviolent resistance against the crude oil project. Police arrested more than 800 people, and many water protectors faced attack dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and, once, a water cannon on a freezing night in November. Last February, armored vehicles and police in riot gear cleared the last of the encampments. Recently, investigative journalism by The Intercept has documented that the paramilitary security firm TigerSwan was hired by DAPL parent Energy Transfer Partners to guide North Dakota law enforcement in treating the movement as a "national security threat."

Oil now flows through the pipeline under the Missouri.

But this Indigenous-led disruption, the awakening resolve that was cultivated at Standing Rock, did not dissolve after February. Rather, it spread in so many different directions that we may never fully realize its reach. The spirit of resistance can easily be found in the half-dozen or so other pipeline battles across the United States. Beyond that, the movement amplified the greater struggle worldwide: treaty rights, sacred sites, and the overall stand to protect Indigenous land and life.

To be sure, post-colonization has always demanded acknowledgment of Indigenous autonomy. It's what spurred months of international advocacy when Haudenosaunee Chief Deskaheh attempted to speak before the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1923. He wanted to remind the world that European colonizers had honored Iroquois Confederacy nationhood upon entering treaty agreements under the two row wampum.

The stand at Standing Rock, then, was not anything new -- just more modern.

Google the words "the next Standing Rock" and you get a smattering of circumstances, mostly posed in the form of a question: Bears Ears, Line 3, Yucca Mountain. "The Next Standing Rock?" the headlines ask.

The story of White Clay, Nebraska, is indicative. When the last tipis came down at Standing Rock, Clarence Matthew III, a middle-aged Sicangu Lakota man better known by his camp nickname, Curly, spared little time migrating to the South Dakota-Nebraska border. There, another fight for justice was mounting, for families living on the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This one focused on a decades-long dispute over beer sales targeted at Native American customers mostly prone to alcohol addiction.

Demands turned to broader issues: investigation of dozens of unsolved crimes in White Clay against Native Americans. "Once we got down there, they started telling us about the problems they've had, more than just alcohol, the murders, the rapes, and everything that was on the bad side of that alcohol problem," Matthew said. "It just broke my heart to hear all that."

Matthew had been caretaker of one of the main communities at Standing Rock, and he settled right in at Camp Justice at the edge of Pine Ridge. He was there with his "water protector family," others who have adopted camping as an active form of protest.

For all the momentum that the resistance at Standing Rock brought, the Indigenous rights movement in the 21st century faces increasing challenges. Tribal nations tread cautiously under the administration of Donald Trump. Internationally, the militarized protection of extractive energy projects and theft of land persist, despite glaring media attention paid to the rising number of Indigenous peoples killed or jailed for their activism in the face of it.

In a final push for re-election last fall, Standing Rock's Dave Archambault II gave what would be his last interview as chairman to tribal radio station KLND. Archambault used the airtime to speak matter-of-factly about how the movement had shifted the tribe's potent public image away from the reservation. "It used to be cool to be Indian; now it's cool to be from Standing Rock.

"This movement was significant, not just for Standing Rock, but for all of Indian Country and around the world. We made some noise and now we're starting to see other Indigenous communities rise up and say, Let us all speak now, and it's pretty powerful and moving," he said.

Less than a week later and on the same day that the state of North Dakota accepted a $15 million gift from Energy Transfer Partners, Archambault was unseated by former council member Mike Faith, who has said publicly that he believes the overall movement hurt Standing Rock's economy and neglected daily life for tribal members.

The difference of opinion between the two leaders is a conflict that often lies at the heart of tribal community: protecting the Earth or protecting the Indigenous peoples.

On the eve of Thanksgiving 2017, when the Keystone pipeline ruptured and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in neighboring South Dakota, the newly elected Faith remained notably silent while water protectors responded with outrage, most loudly, closest to home.

"Ironically, this week most Americans will be sitting down and giving thanks when last year at this time my people were being shot, gassed, and beaten for trying to keep this very thing from happening," Chairman Harold Frazier from the neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux tribe said in a statement. Like Archambault and other tribal leaders, Frazier was arrested for participating in the Standing Rock occupation.

Leadership in the Indigenous world is not only a difficult balance, but also dangerous.

In Honduras, activist Bertha Zuniga Cáceres is fighting for Indigenous rights in one of the most militarized regions in the world. She is the daughter of Berta Cáceres, the Indigenous Lenca woman who was assassinated after leading a successful campaign to halt construction of the Agua Zarca Dam. Now she is seeking justice for her mother's death.

The 26-year-old Cáceres is also campaigning to suspend all U.S. military aid to Honduras. In July, she survived an attack by a group of assailants wielding machetes. Just weeks earlier she had been named the new leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, the nonprofit organization formerly led by her mother.

"Many organizations, many NGOs, many Indigenous groups are struggling in how to sustain the work that they are doing in the face of these attacks," said Katharina Rall, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Last year, after the military-style assaults on the camps at Standing Rock, Human Rights Watch expanded its agenda to include a program focused on the environment as a human right. "The fact that we now have an environment and human rights program at our organization is a reflection of this reality that a lot of people face," Rall said.

Meantime, the organization Global Witness reports that it has never been deadlier to take a stand against companies that steal land and destroy the Earth. In 2016, the watchdog group found that nearly four activists a week are murdered fighting against mining, logging, and other extractive resource development.

As disturbing as this reality is, it is unsurprising then to recall the military-style violence at Standing Rock: the rows of riot police pointing their guns at unarmed activists standing in the river; tanks shooting water in freezing temperatures at a crowd of people gathered on a bridge. In this one regard, Standing Rock was not unique in the world. It had become crucially important. Americans saw the global struggle faced by the estimated 370 million Indigenous people -- the violence, stolen resources, colluding corporations and governments that go hand in hand with protecting the Earth.

Sustaining this awakening is the next great task.

Climate change poses one of the most serious reminders of why the sacred fires ignited at Standing Rock must continue to burn: Indigenous peoples and their knowledge and value systems matter.

At November's COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim was dressed in traditional Mbororo regalia when she stood in a conference hall demanding that Indigenous knowledge systems be properly acknowledged in Paris Agreement negotiations. The girl who once tended cattle in the region of Chad bordering northeastern Nigeria has now become a bridge for her people and government officials making decisions impacting the fragile ecosystem of Lake Chad, the lifeline for the Mbororo.

"Traditional knowledge has kept us from century to century to be in harmony with Mother Earth," Ibrahim said. "These knowledges will make for all the difference, but we cannot wait years and years, because climate is changing, and it's impacting the Earth."

Other members of the Indigenous Caucus at Bonn say inserting traditional knowledge into the climate talks doesn't go far enough. Jannie Staffansson, a representative of the Saami Council, wants what Chief Deskaheh had petitioned to the League of Nations nearly a century earlier: sovereign recognition for Indigenous Peoples on an international scale. It would allow equity at the negotiating table -- a level playing field to fairly deal with the consequences of a warming planet in the face of land grabs and natural resource extraction.

"Why is it always that Indigenous peoples need to pay for other people's wealth?" said Staffansson. She paused to check the Snapchat account she had been using to engage with a young Sami audience while at COP, a demographic similar to the teens who got tattoos of the black snake.

"I had friends that went to Standing Rock," said the 27-year-old. "I was envious of their trip to support self-determination. Self-determination and a just transition is what we have to take into account."

"We need climate justice in everything we do."

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Categories: News

Italy, February 1, 2018 – LOCKS GLUED AT BENETTON SHOPS . en/it/

Anarchist News - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:05

via act for freedom now, read this article in Italian after the link

received anonymously:

“Claim of responsibility for sabotage of two Benetton shops

We are enemies of power and domination. We want the end of every form of exploitation. We aim for the absolute destruction of authority and of the capitalist system. The symbols and the consequences of capitalism and exploitation are everywhere. So we just had to take a clear decision, choosing to take the side of those who are oppressed and attacking the system and its accomplices: direct action for self-determination and total liberation! It doesn’t matter how small is the action compared with the giant monsters we are fighting: it’s action and not just promises at election time, it is the proof of the fact that the fight isn’t over.

On Monday, January 29th, from an anarchist, antispeciesist, antiauthoritarian and anti-capitalist position, we sabotaged two Benetton shops located in Ferrara (Italy) by gluing the locks of the shops.

In solidarity with the Mapuches who, in Patagonia, for decades have been resisting the oppression of the corporation that, since 1991, had taken away (creating many ecological and social problems) almost one million hectares of land from the Mapuches who had lived there for centuries, in harmony with Pachamama (Mother Earth).

For the animals who are enslaved and exploited for the production of wool (to make clothes), and meat (the business of Benetton Group is not limited to the fashion industry).

For the workers, children and adults, who are exploited in factories through a particular method of subcontracting.

In memory of the victims of Rana Plaza collapse, in Bangladesh; and in memory of Santiago Maldonado, Rafael Nahuel and all the activists who lost their lives because of the brutal repression put in place by the States of Argentina and Cile.

And also not to forget the involvement of Benetton in the transport of British war material to Iraq, and the hypocrisy of advertising campaigns hidden behind fake social commitment, created by Oliviero Toscani, in the attempt to show a clean image of the corporation.

‘Power disguises itself continually and the great challenge is to recognize its colors’


Anarchist Cell – Sebastián Oversluij Seguel”

Tags: italyvandalismcategory: Actions
Categories: News

FEC Proposes New Rules for Digital Ad Disclosures

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 14:56

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) voted on Wednesday to move forward with new rules that would bump up disclosure requirements for certain political ads on platforms like Facebook and Google.

The move comes as spending on the 2018 midterms is ramping up and as both lawmakers and digital platforms look to prevent continued foreign influence in American elections.

Any rule change may not be in place for the bulk of this election year as well, and last week FEC Republican Chairwoman Caroline Hunter expressed apprehension about "changing the rules of the game" midway through an election cycle.

At the meeting, commissioners presented two proposals that would require new disclaimers on "express advocacy" ads on digital platforms. "Express advocacy" ads advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate and makeup just a small percentage of online ads.

The commission voted 4-0 to open 60 days for public comments and have scheduled a June 27 public hearing on the matter.

The two proposals vary in their requirements for the size and content of disclaimers, among other differences. One proposal would also define the term "internet communication." The measures would also only cover a small portion of political advertising on digital platforms and likely not affect the types of ads that allowed for the harnessing of Facebook and other digital platforms by Russian actors in 2016.

However, Democrat Ellen Weintraub, the FEC's vice chairwoman, called the commission's vote a "step in the right direction" for transparency of digital advertising, a medium that is expected to be increasingly experimented with since the Trump campaign successfully harnessed it in 2016.

Political spending on digital ads is projected to grow by 2,539 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to a recent study.

"I think it will be an improvement," Weintraub said of the FEC's proposals. "It will bring greater transparency to political ads. It's not going to solve all the problems that we saw in the last election."

Despite butting heads in the process of drafting the proposed rules, commissioners noted the urgency to create rules to regulate the growing realm of digital advertising.

"It has taken another event like Watergate to make everyone realize we have to act in a bipartisan [effort] in order to do something," said Commissioner Steven Walther, an independent.

Republican Commissioner Matthew Petersen said they were "threading the needle," trying not to overregulate but also working toward greater transparency.

"We have a strong interest in ensuring that we are not impeding the further development of the internet and technology as a means of allowing and facilitating political communication," Petersen said, "but at the same time ensuring that the disclaimer requirements … are also being met."

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Categories: News

Canada, Montreal : March 15th: Anarchists Clash with Police

Anarchist News - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 14:55

via subMedia - if you can't see the video, please go there

Anarchists clashed with cops during the march against police brutality. This was the 22nd installment of the march — and along with MayDay, it’s consistently one of the most militant demonstrations that takes place in the Canadian city each year. People attacked the cops with flag poles and fire extinguishers filled with paint. Corporate stores and banks had their windows smashed, but the police managed to protect the studios of TVA – a right-wing TV network that published a fake news story that stoked anti-Muslim sentiments in Quebec City. The police violently charged at the crowd, seriously injuring one person and arresting three. Three cops were also injured.

Tags: canadariot pornmontrealcategory: Actions
Categories: News

Genoa [Italy]: Righi telecommunications repeater up in flames (13/03/2018)

Anarchist News - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 14:38


We live in a world where being connected is essential if we want to keep up with the times and keep pace with the neurotic rhythm that modern society is offering us.
Human relationships have broken up behind displays, Apps.
Without WhatsApp you risk being excluded from your group of friends… seriously.
At work, in the family, as a couple, we all need to be constantly available: “send your precise position”, “send a selfie “, “listen to this voice message”.

Although we realize that “perhaps” we’re spending a lot of time at home, links are becoming more and more virtual and our first thought as soon as we get in after a day’s work is to turn on the pc, we don’t want to figure out for ourselves that something’s wrong, we’re lying to ourselves.
It’s a well-known fact that technology and its damsels have full control over our lives today, what needs to be analysed is why we’ve accepted it.

Perhaps because we consign ourselves to something we see as bigger than ourselves, perhaps because we are fed up with the unpleasant daily life imposed on us, the frivolous use of technology lightens up the day, or perhaps we even believe it’s useful.
One thing sure is that it is useful to the bosses!
Above all else technology and its equipment produce alienation.
The emptiness derived from this mediation is functional to power for keeping its hold firmly on the reins, not by chance new “Apps” such as Youpol turn frustrated citizens into guard dogs of power.
The fact is that for one reason or another we always have a screen in front of our eyes, big or small according to preference.

We delegate any choice whatsoever to a plastic and silicon object, now an actual extension of our body, and in moments of relaxation we rely on real opiates: TV series, online games, soccer games.
What we are experiencing today, turning us into unaware “perpetrators and victims” is the dramatic lobotomization of the human race.

In order to be spread, these new drugs require structures (pylons, antennas, repeaters) and instruments (software, panels of control) diffused far and wide throughout the country.
This makes it easier to attack them and harder for the authorities to defend them.

So for these reasons and thousands of others we are taking responsibility for our actions and claiming the attack on one of the main Telecom repeaters on the heights of Righi.

The cameras and motion detectors defending the metallic monster within the fenced-off area are many, but with the passion for freedom and a certain degree of determination certain obstacles can be overcome.
Once we positioned everything necessary we triggered the fuse… in a flash the parasitic light of the city passed into the background. Twenty litres of petrol took shape and our eyes and hearts lit up with joy!
It matters little if we are not understood, we are not seeking consensus but accomplices.
We are beyond miserable political calculation, we leave that to whoever wants to domesticate the masses by deluding them with the chimera of giving power to the people.
That said and done, we are not being as presumptuous as to say that we have fully dissected and solved the causes of the self-enchainment that society, which we also belong to, has become a material author of, but invite all those who feel close to such practices to take part in the celebration and continue attacking the techno-industrial apparatus.

We too have been encouraged by the summer barbecues of repeaters in France, England and other cities of Italy, including Genoa (also thanks to those who have taken on the task of translating foreign texts).
May the match pass from hand to hand without extinguishing!



Tags: italysabotageanti-technologycategory: Actions
Categories: News

Eduardo Colombo 1929-2018: A Grand Anarchist Fighter Leaves Us

Anarchist News - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 14:34

via Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog

I was sad to hear of the passing of Eduardo Colombo, one of the more interesting anarchist writers from the post-World War II era. I included a short piece by Colombo on voting in Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. I also posted on this blog his essay on the state as the paradigm of power, in which he drew on the work of Cornelius Castoriadis and Pierre Clastres. Here I reproduce a tribute to Colombo by the Spanish anarchist theorist, Tomás Ibáñez. It would be nice to see more of Colombo’s writings translated into English.

Tribute to Eduardo Colombo

Today, March 13th, the sad note of the death of Eduardo Colombo strikes us painfully. With Eduardo, not only disappears a dear and fraternal compañero, but also a first-rate thinker and a militant anarchist of unshakeable convictions.

It was in the 1940’s when the young student Eduardo Colombo became intensely involved in the anarchist movement in his native Argentina participating in the anarcho-syndicalist struggles of the FORA (Worker Federation of the Argentina Region), collaborating and taking on management responsibilities in his renowned newspaper, “La Protesta”. Since then, an extensive period of time has passed of more than 70 years during which Eduardo Colombo never abandoned not for even one minute his early and intense commitment to “the idea” and the sought after Social Revolution, for which he lived all his life with inexhaustible enthusiasm.

Doctor and psychoanalyst, he was also professor of social psychology at the University of Buenos Aires until the military coup of 1966 expelled him of his teaching duties and caused him just a few years afterwards to seek asylum in Paris where he arrived with his compañera Heloisa Castellanos in 1970. There, in spite of the difficulties of professional and social relocation, he did not hesitate to involve himself immediately in the activities of the anarchist movement in France, at the same time strengthening his ties with the anti-franco movement of the libertarian exiles.

His willingness to permanently engage thought and action led him to position himself as one of the most important theorists of contemporary anarchism, while participating in dozens of events at the internal level. Let me briefly mention examples of that tireless international activity: his participation as speaker in the libertarian days of Barcelona in 1977, his contribution to the organization of the extraordinary international anarchist conference in Venice in 1984, and his interventions in the international anarchist gathering in Saint-Imier in 2012.

His numerous books and articles contributed to his permanent invitation to conferences, above all in Italy, Greece, Spain, Argentina and various other Latin American countries. He was also one of the founders in 1997 of the anarchist magazine “Réfractiones” and one of its principal animators for two decades.

There will be time to detail more closely this unforgettable figure and his valuable intellectual contributions that go beyond simply the anarchist movement to cover also the field of psychoanalysis and philosophy. However, we cannot close this brief summary without again emphasizing that he who left today was a militant anarchist of incomparable strength and worth, furthermore a beautiful being and endearing person.

Tomás Ibáñez

Barcelona, March 13th, 2018

Translated from the original:

Tags: eduardo colomboobituarycategory: Other
Categories: News

Brazilian Presidential Candidate Lula on Facing Jail as He Runs for President Again

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:00

We continue our conversation with former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the highly popular former union leader who is running for president in this year's election even as he is facing a possible prison term on what many believe to be trumped-up corruption charges tied to the sprawling probe known as "Operation Car Wash." Lula was convicted of accepting a beachside apartment from an engineering firm vying for contracts at the state oil company Petrobras. But many of Lula's supporters say the conviction was politically motivated. President Lula responds to the charges against him. "We're awaiting for the accusers to show at least some piece of evidence that indicates that I committed any crime," he notes.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report, as we continue our exclusive, a conversation with Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula. The highly popular former union leader is running for president in this year's election but is facing a possible prison term on what many believe to be trumped-up corruption charges tied to a sprawling probe known as "Operation Car Wash." Lula was convicted of accepting a beachside apartment from an engineering firm vying for contracts at the state oil company Petrobras, but many of Lula's supporters say the conviction was politically motivated.

The Intercept recently reported, quote, "The indictment against Lula is rife with problems. The apartment's title was never transferred to Lula or his associates; he and his wife never used the property; the prosecution could not identify an explicit quid pro quo or benefit related to Petrobras; no official or internal documentation linking Lula to the apartment was produced; and the case rests almost entirely on the testimony of the executive who hoped to gain sentencing leniency for his cooperation," unquote.

During the interview on Friday, President Lula responded to the charges and conviction against him.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I was not accused of corruption. I was accused because of a lie in a police investigation, a lie in an indictment by the Office of the Attorney General, and in the judgment of Judge Moro, because there is only one evidence, of my innocence, in this entire trial, which my defense counsel explained in a magisterial manner. We are awaiting the accusers, for the accusers to show at least some piece of evidence that indicates that I committed any crime during the period that I was in the presidency.

Now, what is behind that is the attempt to criminalize my political party. What is behind that is the interest in a part of the political elite in Brazil, together with a part of the press, reinforced by the role of the judiciary, in preventing Lula from becoming a candidate in the 2018 elections. And I continue challenging the federal police, the Office of the Attorney General. I continue challenging Judge Moro and the appellate court to show the world and to show Brazil a single piece of evidence of a crime committed by me. The behavior of the judiciary in this instance is a political form of behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, last year, the ousted President Dilma Rousseff said, "The first chapter of the coup was my impeachment. But there's a second chapter, and that is stopping President Lula from becoming a candidate for next year's elections." Do you see it the same way, that this is the final chapter of the coup, if your conviction is upheld, that you will be prevented from running in the October elections?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Amy, the Workers' Party, in 12 years in the government, at the helm of the government in Brazil, was able to do many things that had never been done at any time in the 20th century. In this country, in 12 years, we brought 40 million people into the middle class. We drew 36 million people out of poverty. While Europe was shedding 62 million jobs as of the 2000 date, we created 20 million jobs in the formal sector in this country. For 12 years, all Brazilian workers were able to overcome inflation. It was the time of the greatest economic growth in the history of Brazil. It was the most distribution of income in the history of Brazil. To give you an idea, in 12 years, 70 million people began to use the banking system who had never walked into a bank.

And when they got rid of Dilma, they did want Lula to come back, because they know that the relationship between the Brazilian people and President Lula was the strongest relationship that the people of Brazil had ever had with a president in the entire history of the country. And even more important, they know I am absolutely certain that the best way to ensure economic recovery in Brazil is to lift up the working people of this country. They know that I know how to do that. Now that the poor people had jobs, had a salary, were studying, were eating better, were living -- had better housing, when that happens, the economy grows again, and we can become the most optimistic country in the world and the happiest people in the world. And, Amy, that is why I want to be candidate for the presidency of Brazil, to show that a mechanic who doesn't have a university degree knows better how to take care of the Brazilian people than the Brazilian elite, who never looked after the welfare of the Brazilian people.

AMY GOODMAN: President Lula, why did you decide to run for president again?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] The truth is, I have still not decided, Amy. The ones who are deciding are the Brazilian people. Look, all of the public opinion polls in Brazil, month after month -- and there are several of them -- in all of them, I'm in first place. And so, I'm beginning to be the candidate who has the lowest negatives and the possibility of becoming a candidate and winning on the first round, and this is making my adversaries very uncomfortable. And I am sure, Amy, that at the Supreme Court I will be acquitted and that I will be candidate, and Brazil could once again be a protagonist in international policy, the economy could grow again, create jobs and improve the quality of life of the people. This is something I know how to do very well.

AMY GOODMAN: If the case does not go well for you in the Supreme Court, would you consider stepping aside?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] First of all, Amy, I'm very optimistic, very optimistic. Now, if that were to happen and I was not able -- were not able to be a candidate, if my name is not on the ballot, I think that the party would call a convention and discuss what to do. I am going to require that and call for justice to be done in the country.

Now, if my innocence is proven, then Judge Moro should be removed from his position, because you can't have a judge who is lying in the judgment and pronouncing as guilty someone who he knows is innocent. He knows that it's not my apartment. He knows that I didn't buy it. He knows that I didn't pay anything. He knows that I never went there. He knows that I don't have money from Petrobras. The thing is that because he subordinated himself to the media, I said, in the first hearing with him, "You are not in a position to acquit me, because the lies have gone too far." And the disgrace is that the one who does the first lie continues lying and lying and lying to justify the first lie. And I am going to prove that he has been lying.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you raise two issues, President Lula: the media as prosecutor and the judge as prosecutor. Can you talk about both? Start with the media.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Well, Amy, it's important that you come to Brazil to see what's happening with the Brazilian press. I was president for eight years. Dilma was president for four years. And for 12 years, all the press did was to try to destroy my image and her image and the image of my party. I have more negative subject matter about me in the leading television news program of Brazil than all of the presidents in the whole history of Brazil. In other words, it's a daily attempt to massacre me, to tell untruths about Lula, about Lula's family. And the only weapon that I have is to confront them. And they're irritated, because after they massacred me for four years, any opinion poll by any polling institute showed that Lula was going win the elections in Brazil.

Now, second, the Office of the Attorney General and the Car Wash scandal. I respect very much the institution. I was a member of the constitutional assembly, and I helped to strengthen the role of the Office of the Attorney General. But it created a task force, organized by a prosecutor, who went to television to show a PowerPoint, and said that the PT, the Workers' Party, was established to be a criminal organization, that the fact that Lula was the most important person in the PT meant that he was the head of a criminal organization.

And on concluding the indictment, he simply said the following: "I don't have evidence. I don't have evidence. I have conviction." I don't want to be judged by the conviction of the prosecutor. He can keep his convictions to himself. I want whoever is prosecuting me to come forward in the proceeding and to tell the people of Brazil what crime I committed. The only thing, Amy, that I really want now is for the merits of my trial to be judged. I want him to discuss it. I want him to read the prosecutorial brief and the defense brief, and then make a decision. What I really want at this time is that justice be done in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: The candidate polling second in Brazil's elections is a far-right-wing congressman and former soldier named Jair Bolsonaro. He's been called the "Brazilian Trump." Can you talk about who he is, what he represents, and if you understand there's any communication between him and the US government right now?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I cannot. I cannot level accusations against an adversary. The only thing that I would like is to have the right to run in the elections here in Brazil, to win the elections and to recover the right of the Brazilian people to live well. I cannot pass judgment on the president of the United States, just as I cannot pass judgment on the president of Uruguay, and much less can I pass judgment on my adversaries.

AMY GOODMAN: But if you can explain what he represents, how you differ from him?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] He is a member of the federal Congress. He was an Army captain in the Brazilian Army. The information that we have is that he was expelled from the Brazilian army. And his behavior is far-right-wing, fascist. He is very much prejudiced against women, against blacks, against indigenous persons, against human rights. He believes that everything can be resolved with violence. So, I don't think he has a future in Brazilian politics. He has the right to run. He speaks. He projects a certain image to please a part of the society that is of the extreme right. But I don't believe that the Brazilian people have an interest in electing someone with his sort of behavior to serve as president of the republic.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was happy with Marielle's death?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I think so, because he's preaching violence every day. He preaches violence. He believes that those who defend human rights are doing a disservice to democracy. He thinks that those who defend women's rights are doing a disservice to democracy, likewise those who defend the rights of the black community. He is against everything that is discussed when one is talking about human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Brazilian presidential candidate, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 30 seconds.

Categories: News

Former Brazilian President Lula: It's Clear Marielle Franco's Assassination Was Premeditated

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:00

In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we spend the hour with Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is now running for president again. We begin our discussion with the assassination of 38-year-old Rio city councilmember and human rights activist Marielle Franco, who was killed last week. Franco, who was a black lesbian, was known for her fierce criticism of police killings in Brazil's impoverished favela neighborhoods. Her death comes at a pivotal moment for Brazil and the future of democracy in South America's largest country. Just last month, President Michel Temer ordered Brazil's military to assume control of police duties in Rio. "The only thing that she did was to work against the assassination of black people in the peripheral areas in the defense of human rights," says Lula da Silva.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Brazilians continue to mourn the loss of 38-year-old Rio de Janeiro city councilmember and human rights activist Marielle Franco. Franco was assassinated, along with her driver, last Wednesday night, after a pair of gunmen riddled her car with bullets as she returned from an event on the topic of empowering black women. Franco, who was a black lesbian, was known for her fierce criticism of police killings in Brazil's impoverished favela neighborhoods. The night before her death, Franco wrote on Twitter, "How many more must die for this war to end?" In January alone, government figures show police killed 154 people in Rio state.

Franco's death comes at a pivotal moment for Brazil and the future of democracy in South America's largest country. Just last month, President Michel Temer ordered Brazil's military to assume control of police duties in Rio. Two years ago, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party was impeached by the Brazilian Senate, in a move she denounced as a coup. Brazil is holding elections later this year. The front-runner is Rousseff's ally, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula. While he's leading all opinion polls, he's facing a possible prison sentence, after being convicted on what many believe to be trumped-up charges of corruption and money laundering.

Last year, President Rousseff said, quote, "The first chapter of the coup was my impeachment. But there's a second chapter, and that is stopping President Lula from becoming a candidate for next year's elections," Rousseff said. British human rights attorney Geoffrey Robertson told the New Internationalist that, quote, "extraordinarily aggressive measures" are being taken to put Lula in jail, quote, "by the judiciary, by the media, by the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil," unquote.

Lula is a former union leader who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of the poverty. President Barack Obama once called him the most popular politician on Earth.

Well, late Friday, I had a chance to speak with Lula. He was in São Paulo, Brazil. I began by asking him about the assassination of Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Amy, we have two problems in Brazil. The first is that her assassination is unacceptable, the assassination of Marielle, a young woman. The only thing that she did was to work against the assassinations of black persons in the peripheral areas, in the defense of human rights, in the defense of the lives of people.

It's clear that her death was a premeditated killing. Now, I don't know if it was a militia or a police, but what is clear is that it is unacceptable and that all of us Brazilians should come together in a single voice and shout out loud to immediately demand punishment of those responsible for that killing.

And President Temer should have learned a great lesson with this killing, which is that the problem of violence in the peripheral areas of our Brazil is not going to be resolved by turning to the armed forces. It is necessary that the state have a presence in the peripheral neighborhoods of Brazil -- with jobs, education, healthcare, cultural activities, employment and salaries, so that people can survive and live with dignity. The armed forces were not trained to deal with common crime in the favelas in Brazil. They were trained to defend our country from outside enemies. In other words, when people understand that violence in Brazil is associated with the very poor quality of life that people are subjected to and the lack of proper living conditions for people living in peripheral areas, then there will be less violence in the peripheral areas, especially against children, young people and black people in our country.

The case of Marielle is an emblematic case, because it requires all democratic-minded persons in the world, all those who love life, all those who love freedom, and all of those who struggle for human rights -- all should protest loudly so that the assassins of Marielle are put in prison and are given exemplary punishment. That's what we all want.

AMY GOODMAN: Cecília Olliveira of The Intercept, on Twitter, tweeted, "The lot of 9mm ammo used in the execution of #MarielleFranco & Anderson Pedro -- UZZ-18 -- was purchased by the Federal Police & matches casings found at the scene of the Osasco massacre, that killed 19 in São Paulo in 2015. 2 cops & 1 municipal guard were convicted."

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept then tweeted, "To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the preliminary evidence is establishing links between the police and the assassins who killed Marielle Franco. Nothing is conclusive yet at all in this regard, but the preliminary evidence is pointing straight in that direction."

Do you agree with this, President Lula? And what do you think needs to be done immediately right now, as thousands of people have taken to the streets?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Look, the first thing is, if it is true that the weapon that killed Marielle was a weapon purchased by the federal police and that was already used in another massacre here in São Paulo two years ago, then we would have a very strong indication. We must know whether at some point in time during that period between the massacre in São Paulo and the killing of Marielle, whether the federal police denounced that any weapons had been or munitions had been stolen from the federal police. Or, if there was a robbery and the munitions or weapons were purchased by the federal police, it's necessary that the federal police explain to Brazilian society why is it that those weapons were in the hands of the assassins.

So, there needs to be clarification with this evidence, if the weapons were stolen and they did not denounce it, because they were ashamed that weapons had been stolen from the federal police. Well, in this case, Amy, it's very important that people be careful to make sure they're not making untrue accusations or accusations looking for a headline. Now, what is true is that for the police, for the armed forces, for the government, for the police intelligence, should be able to -- in the shortest time possible, they should figure out who the assassins were, and then punish those assassins.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He's now running again for president and is the current front-runner, but may soon be heading to jail. We'll continue our interview with Lula in a minute and ask him about the charges against him, which his supporters say are politically motivated, and also talk with him about US intervention in Latin America, about this 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and much more. Stay with us.

Categories: News

Are the Trump Tax Cuts Working and Does Anyone Care?

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:00

 Win McNamee / Getty Images)President Trump speaks with US workers in the Oval Office about the recently passed tax reform package on January 31, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

By far the biggest part of the tax cut the Republicans pushed through Congress last year was a cut in the corporate income tax rate. The package included many special provisions for specific industries, and exempts future foreign profits from US taxes altogether. But its main feature was a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Most immediately, this looks like a huge giveaway to the rich, who own a grossly disproportionate share of stock. The richest 1 percent of households hold nearly 40 percent of stock shares, and the top 10 percent holds close to 80 percent. Lower corporate income taxes means more money in these shareholders' pockets. It can take the form of share buybacks, dividend payouts or simply higher prices per share, as stock values reflect the fact that companies keep a larger portion of their profits.

But the Trump administration argued that reducing corporate taxes would actually benefit ordinary workers. They argued that workers would see wage gains that were two- or three-times the size of the tax cuts. The argument was that the tax cut would prompt a flood of investment that would increase the size of the US capital stock by roughly a third, after a decade.

A larger capital stock would mean that workers were more productive. If workers were more productive, their pay would increase. The Trump administration's Council of Economic Advisers projected that these wage gains would increase annual income by between $4,000 and $9,000 for an average household.

The arguable part of the story is the link between corporate tax rates and investment. Those of us who are critical of the tax cut are skeptical that lower tax rates can have this large of an impact on investment.

Historically, there has been little relationship between after-tax rates of profit (the relevant factor) and investment. Furthermore, we did this experiment before. In 1986 Congress lowered the corporate income tax rate from 48 percent to 36 percent. There was no flood of investment following this rate cut. In fact, measured as a share of GDP, investment fell slightly over the next two years.

Since the tax cut passed, we get another chance to see whether this experiment works. Unfortunately, the discussion about the impact of the tax cut on investment has been obscured by worker bonuses announced by many companies as a public relations move.

To convince us that workers will share in the benefits of the tax cut, rather than go into shareholders' pockets, many major companies announced one-time bonuses. In almost all cases the bonuses were just a small fraction of the money received from the tax cut.

For example, AT&T is looking at annual tax savings of more than $2.3 billion. Their one-time bonus of $1,000 for 200,000 workers would come to $200 million, or less than one-tenth of their tax savings in a single year. Apple's one-time bonus would come to less than 5 percent of its annual savings.

The bonuses are very much a sideshow. The Trump administration promised an investment boom, not companies sharing a fraction of their tax break.

We now have the first evidence on the course of post-tax cut investment. It does not support the boom hypothesis.

The Commerce Department releases data on capital goods orders every month. These are the machines and equipment that comprise, by far, the largest single component of investment. Orders just means the companies decide they want to buy the items, not that they actually have the equipment in place and running.

The numbers for both December and January go the wrong way. Orders were down 0.3 percent in December and 1.6 percent in January. If we pull out volatile aircraft orders, the declines were 0.5 and 0.3 percent, respectively.

This is obviously early in the game. The tax plan just passed in December, but the broad outlines were known back in September. If tax cuts were a huge motivation for investment, we would expect that forward-looking businesses were already developing plans once the tax cut became a serious possibility.

We have another data source that tells the same story. The National Federal of Independent Businesses (NFIB) has been surveying its members for more than three decades. One of the questions it asks is whether the business plans to make a capital expenditure in the next six months.

The February reading shows 29 percent saying yes. That is up very slightly from the 28 percent average from 2017 but hardly seems like evidence of a boom. In fact, it is the same reading as the survey showed in August of 2014 during the Obama administration.

In short, neither the NFIB survey nor the Commerce Department data support the claim that the tax cuts would trigger an investment boom. It is unfortunate these data have not received more attention.

If the tax cuts actually did produce the sort of investment boom promised by proponents, there would be a good case for cutting the corporate tax rate. We now have good preliminary evidence that the investment boom exists only in the realm of political propaganda. Workers will not be getting any big dividends from this tax cut.

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Categories: News

In "Call for Peace" Address, Sanders Takes on Endless War and Global Oligarchy

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:00

 Steve Rogers Photography / Getty Images for SXSW)Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks onstage at CNN's Jake Tapper in conversation with Bernie Sanders during SXSW at Austin Convention Center on March 9, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Steve Rogers Photography / Getty Images for SXSW)

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In a wide-ranging speech viewed by more than 11,000 people from over 30 countries, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq by highlighting its devastating consequences and issuing an urgent call for a global agenda that pursues "peace, not war" and "development, not destruction."

"We need to invest in our children, in our elderly, and in healthcare and education and environmental protection. We do not want more and more war," Sanders said. "People in my country, the United States, and all over the world are sick and tired of spending billions and billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, war planes, missiles, bombs, and tanks."

Sanders -- who was joined on Sunday at the #CallForPeace event by Korea expert and peace activist Christine Ahn, Raed Jarrar of Amnesty International, and Jenny Town of the US-Korea institute -- also used his speech to highlight global crises ranging from human-caused climate change to the rise of oligarchy.

"Increasingly, in the United States and around the world, we see an economic and political system in which a small number of multi-billionaires and corporate interests have increased control over the world's economic life, our political life, and our media," Sanders said. "Inequality, corruption, oligarchy, and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought and opposed in the same way."

These are crises that can only be solved through international cooperation, not unilateral action by powerful nations, Sanders argues.

"The threat of climate change is a very clear example of why we all need to pull together, we are in this together. The United States can't do it alone, Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, no one country can do this alone," Sanders concluded. "This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and our grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable."

A video of Sanders' speech can be viewed below (Sanders' address begins at around the 36-minute mark). A full transcript of the speech follows the embedded video.


Let me thank you very much, and let me thank MoveOn for helping to organize this event and thank all of the people throughout the world for coming together. I think we all understand that the great global crises are not going to be solved country by country. They're only going to be solved when millions and hundreds of millions of people come together to demand a fundamental change in global priorities, and certainly at the top of that list is the need to end war and destruction, and work toward a global peace.

So again, I want to thank everybody for the work they are doing, we're all in this together.

Today, we are here to mark a very somber anniversary, and that is the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Fifteen years ago this week, the bombs started falling on Baghdad; "shock and awe" was what the Bush administration called it, and the news media repeated it, creating the expectation that US military power would make the war quick and easy. We all remember that.

The theory was that Saddam Hussein would be overthrown in a few weeks, democracy in Iraq would be established, American troops would return home in a few months, and everything would be wonderful from then on out.

Well, it didn't quite happen like that.

Later we would all be shocked and awed at the disaster they had created, because war is never quick, and it is never easy.

I remember vividly -- I was in Congress at the time -- all of the rhetoric that came from the Bush administration, that came from my Republican colleagues and some Democrats as well, about why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do.

Well, it wasn't.

In fact, it is one of the great tragedies in modern history. It is very easy to give speeches in the safety of the floor of the Senate or in the House; it is a little bit harder to experience war and live through the devastation of war, and to deal with the aftermath, the consequences.

I was one of those that opposed the war at the beginning. Today, it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude.

The war created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come.

Indeed, had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist.

The war deepened hostilities between Sunni and Shia communities in Iraq and elsewhere; it exacerbated a regional struggle for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran and their proxies in places like Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen; and it undermined American diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The devastation experienced by Iraq's civilians was unbelievable. A recent academic study by US, Canadian, and Iraqi researchers found that over 400,000 Iraqi civilians -- nearly half a million people -- were killed directly or indirectly as a consequence of the war [note: other researchers have estimated that the total number of deaths from the war exceeds one million].

The war led to the deaths of some 4,400 US troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others.

The war led to the displacement of nearly five million people both inside and outside of Iraq, putting great stress on the ability of surrounding countries to deal with these refugee flows.

We've also seen this more recently in Europe, as the large numbers of people fleeing the Syrian war has generated a backlash in European countries, giving rise to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments that have been exploited by right-wing politicians.

And, by the way, that war in Iraq cost trillions of dollars -- money that could have been spent on addressing the massive levels of poverty and hopelessness that exists all over the developing world, where hundreds of millions of people today live in extreme poverty and where many children around the world die as a result of easily prevented diseases.

The Iraq War, like so many other military conflicts, had unintended consequences. It ended up making us less safe, not more safe.

The Iraq War also set a precedent -- a very dangerous precedent -- that large countries like the United States could attack small countries with impunity. Instead of moving us forward to a world without war, where international conflicts are settled through negotiations and diplomacy, we now see wars all over the world and a significant increase in global military spending.

For example, right here in the United States, Congress just voted to increase the Defense Department budget by $165 billion over a two-year period.

No one disagrees that Saddam Hussein was a brutal, murderous dictator. But it's now known that he had nothing to do with 9/11. The American people were misled by the Bush administration into believing that the Iraq War was necessary to prevent another 9/11.

Forty years before that, in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson cited an attack on a US ship in the Gulf of Tonkin as a pretext for escalating US intervention in Vietnam. We now know that his administration misled both Congress and the American people into that war, just as the Bush administration did in Iraq.

Time and time again, we see disasters when leaders refuse to tell their people the truth. And let's remember that the people of the world were not silent about the Iraq War.

In the months leading up to the invasion, there were huge and unprecedented demonstrations in the United States, and in fact all over the world, opposing that war.

The truth is that in country after country, what people were saying is that we need to invest in our children, in our elderly, and in healthcare and education and environmental protection. We do not want more and more war.

People in my country, the United States, and all over the world are sick and tired of spending billions and billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, war planes, missiles, bombs, and tanks.

Our job together, in each of our countries, is to bring our people together around an agenda that calls for peace, not war; development, not destruction.

Let me say a brief word about some of the shared global challenges that we face today.

The growth of oligarchy and income and wealth inequality is not just an American issue; it is a global issue.

Globally, the top one percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent of the world's population.

Increasingly, in the United States and around the world, we see an economic and political system in which a small number of multi-billionaires and corporate interests have increased control over the world's economic life, our political life, and our media.

And these people are working night and day just to make themselves even richer.

Just a few years ago, it was estimated that the wealthiest people and the most profitable corporations in the world have stashed at least $21 trillion in offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

The situation has become so absurd that one five-story building in the Cayman Islands, which has a zero percent corporate tax rate, is now the home of nearly 20,000 companies.

In other words, while the very, very rich become much richer, governments around the world institute austerity programs, because they lack the funds to provide decently for their constituents.

Inequality, corruption, oligarchy, and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought and opposed in the same way.

Around the world, we have witnessed the rise of demagogues, who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats like Putin in Russia and many others use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.

The last years have obviously seen very troubling political developments in many countries around the world, particularly in Europe and also here in the United States.

The rise of intolerant, authoritarian political movements is something that should concern each and every one of us.

These movements have drawn strength from the fact that more and more people have lost faith in their systems of government and are desperate for alternatives.

They see their governments as corrupt, ineffective, and not delivering for them or providing opportunities for a better future for their children.

The problem is, when you see leaders that tell the people, "I, only I, can deliver you security, opportunity, and a future. It's those people over there that are taking it away from you."

They point to politically unpopular groups, ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, refugees, and blame these groups for all the trouble, and then propose to strip these groups of their rights.

That is how demagogues work. They gain power by claiming to speak to people's legitimate desires, but always end up using that power to oppress them. They claim to speak for the many, but really represent the very few.

We have seen this played out before many times in history.

Further, we cannot forget, when we talk about global crises, the crisis of climate change.

My friends, it is time for us to get serious about this issue. The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating harm throughout the world.

Further, what the scientists tell us is that if we do not act boldly, together, to address this crisis of climate change, this planet will see more drought, more floods, and more types of devastation.

Furthermore, what we will see is a level of migration, of people moving away from areas where they cannot grow foods or drinkable water, which will cause all kinds of other threats to global stability and security.

The threat of climate change is a very clear example of why we all need to pull together, we are in this together. The United States can't do it alone, Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, and no one country can do this alone.

This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and our grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable.

So let me just conclude by again thanking all of you who are watching this program, who understand that we need to stand together, to rally the people for social, economic, political, and racial justice, and that the only way we are going to solve international problems is when people throughout the world come together.

Categories: News

In the Midst of Worldwide Water Scarcity, an Artist Reminds Us, "We Are Water"

Truth Out - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:00

 Basia Irland)Installing "Desert Fountain" at the Albuquerque Museum. (Photo: Basia Irland)

As anthropogenic climate disruption and human development progress, rivers are drying up and water scarcity has become the new norm. This climate dispatch features author, poet, sculptor and installation artist Basia Irland, whose work and activism eloquently weave in the critical threads of conservation and education, along with her reverence for water and its role in life and on Earth.

 Basia Irland)Installing "Desert Fountain" at the Albuquerque Museum. (Photo: Basia Irland)As a journalist and author covering anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), when I write about what is happening in the liquid realms of the biosphere, my focus tends to be on how rapidly certain parts of the cryosphere are melting. Additionally, sea level rise, thermal expansion of the oceans, floods and droughts are what tend to make it into my Climate Disruption Dispatches and my book.

Hence, I, like most of us, tend to overlook the most blatantly obvious place where water is present ... my own body.

But when I interviewed Fulbright Scholar, author, poet, sculptor and installation artist Basia Irland, she began her observations about water in exactly this location: our interior physical worlds.

"One cannot discuss water without first emphasizing interconnections," Irland explained to Truthout.

Irland blogs for National Geographic about various rivers, writing each post from the perspective of the river itself. She sees human bodies as bodies of water, too.

"We are water," she said in our interview. "Our bodies house streams: lymph, bile, sweat, blood, mucus, urine. Water enters, circulates, leaves -- individualized hydrologic cycles. Each of us is a walking river, sloshing down the hallway with damp innards held together by a paper-thin epidermis."

I, like most of us, tend to overlook the most blatantly obvious place where water is present ... my own body.

Irland, along with lecturing and exhibiting extensively, is professor emerita at University of New Mexico, where she founded the school's Art and Ecology Program. She also works with scholars from diverse disciplines building rainwater harvesting systems; connects communities along the entire length of rivers and fosters dialogue among them; films water documentaries; sculpts hand-carved ice books embedded with native riparian seeds for river restoration projects; and creates waterborne disease projects around the world to heighten awareness.

To see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"

Irland reminds us that cycles of moisture connect us across distance and time. She points to Henry David Thoreau, who described laying down his book and going to the well for water. There he met an imaginary man drawing water for a Brahmin priest. Thoreau remarks how "our buckets, as it were, grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges."

The same water the dinosaurs drank circulates in our bodies. The artist's wet breath mixes with moisture exhaled by aspen trees, river otters, blue herons and ravens."

Another way to view this bond comes from theoretical high-energy physicist and author Fritjof Capra, who has written about the basic oneness of the universe as a central characteristic of both modern physics and the mystical experience. He writes in The Tao of Physics, " ... the constituents of matter and the basic phenomena involving them are all interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent; that they cannot be understood as isolated entities, but only as integrated parts of the whole."

For Irland, the hydrologic cycle is a perfect example of this inherent interconnectivity.

"Clouds gather overhead, conferring about how soon to release their moisture," she said. "Slow, steady rain builds to a crescendo. Winds blow. Temperatures drop. Snow accumulates. Months pass, and the frozen elements melt, trickling toward a river, flowing out to sea, eventually evaporating to re-form the cloud committee, and the hydrologic cycle continues its primeval rhythms, as it has for eons. The same water the dinosaurs drank circulates in our bodies. The artist's wet breath mixes with moisture exhaled by aspen trees, river otters, blue herons and ravens."

The Magic of Water

Earth's total water supply -- the same supply that was here 3 billion years ago -- remains relatively constant. Irland explained that it has been recycled over and over through evaporation, condensation and precipitation, yet gets redistributed, causing floods in certain regions, and drought in others. She notes that nature's vast cycles are thousands and millions of years in duration, whereas our human cycles are relatively brief and short-sighted. We often upset the equilibrium in a water system.

"In our hubris, we build houses in a floodplain and then get angry at a river for doing what it does naturally, which is to flood," she said. "Our response is to channelize the river, dam it, straighten it, make it behave as we wish it would. We try and dominate the waters of the world, but, ah-ha, nature always gets the last laugh."

As an example, she pointed to how California has suffered a long drought, and then, at least temporarily, the rains returned, causing rivers to crest their banks and dams to reach a breaking point.

We try and dominate the waters of the world, but ... nature always gets the last laugh.

Meanwhile, we cannot survive without water. While a human might carry on for three to four weeks without food, most of us would be gone in just a few days without water.

The greatest civilizations in history were nurtured by rivers, from the Tigris and Euphrates in what is now Iraq, to the Indus in Pakistan, to the Yangtse and Yellow Rivers in China, to the Nile of Egypt.

Phillip Ball, in his book H2O: A Biography of Water, wrote, "The fundamental nature of this dependence on water is reflected linguistically in Persian, in which the first word of the dictionary is ab, meaning 'water.'  Herein lies the root of the word 'abode'.... Quite literally, water constitutes the beginning of civilization."

When I asked Irland about the role of water in why humans are here, she replied,

"I will simply quote one of my favorite authors, Loren Eiseley: 'If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.'"

Dehydrated Life

 Basia Irland)Hydrogrid. Carved wooden book coated with earth. The graph depicts stream flow on a specific date in Boulder Creek, Colorado. This line, similar to a heartbeat, can sometimes flatline as a stream dries up and dies. (Photo: Basia Irland)

"In the desert, water in any amount is a tincture, so holy that it will burn through your heart when you see it." —Craig Childs, The Secret Knowledge of Water

If there is magic in water, there is also significant danger in its disappearance. Water scarcity is projected to affect at least 40 percent of the global population by 2030, according to the World Bank.

Drought plays a central role in Irland's work.

"I am fascinated by the notion of anhydrobiosis, which is essentially dehydrated life," Irland explained. "Certain aquatic desert organisms cope with very long periods of drought, even up to a hundred years, by shriveling up until there is no water left in them."

In so doing, their internal structures become crystalline. They become virtually dead -- but can come back to life whenever a small amount of moisture falls on their bodies. This phenomenon has been compared to long-dormant seeds that, when finally planted in moist soil, begin to sprout.

"Oh, that we humans could do the same," Irland said. "Drought, then, would not have the dire consequences on us. Dehydration, death and drought go together."

She noted how in literature, drought is often used as a symbol of death, such as in T.S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land" and in John Steinbeck's book The Grapes of Wrath.

Irland points out that storing and utilizing moisture that has fallen from the sky is an ancient tradition that is gaining renewed respect during this millennium in various locations around the globe. Collection systems dating back 4,000 years have been found in the Negev Desert of Israel. Rainwater harvesting entails the capture, diversion and/or storage of rain for irrigation or personal uses such as cleaning, or as a possible source of potable water.

"The projects I create redirect water from the roof through gravity-fed methods for xeriscape (low-water-use) gardens," Irland explained. "Most of New Mexico, where I live, only receives about eight to ten inches of rain per year, and the groundwater levels have dramatically declined in some areas."

Thus, the state's rivers are running low because of excessive withdrawals that have depleted connected aquifers.

 Basia Irland)Some years the Río Grande becomes a river of sand, with all the upstream water being diverted and overused. This year, in 2017, it is flowing at the highest rate in decades due to record amounts of snowmelt coming from the upper mountain ranges. (Photo: Basia Irland)

Irland discussed the need to utilize harvested precipitation both for humans and plants and reminded us that any household anywhere can collect water simply by placing a large container underneath a gutter downspout.

"Rainwater harvesting methods are not widespread in America, but in some countries, such as Australia and the Middle East, rain collection is common," she said. "Sometimes with our modern technology, a hesitancy to revert to traditional ways exists, even though time-tested methods can provide adequate solutions."

Irland believes that as the global water crisis continues to worsen, if every new building were designed to redirect runoff toward gardens, and existing structures were retrofitted with simple rain catchment systems, we could conserve a lot of moisture.

The mountain glaciers that give birth to streams and creeks are drastically receding, and a lot of them will disappear altogether.

However, Irland is quick to add that it is important to design harvest systems that only momentarily hold the runoff, or redirect it, allowing the moisture to seep into the ground, where it will eventually make it back to the river system via shallow groundwater. In this way, the natural cycle of water is respected.

Sky Juice

Irland is also fascinated by the way languages from diverse cultures shed light on what water means to them.

One example she gives is how on certain Caribbean islands, rain is called "sky juice."

"Just thinking about this phrase helps us look at rain in a new way," she said. "People's connection to the language of their place is important, so some of my rainwater project sites incorporate indigenous and international words for water."

For her, these words are one way to ground each of us in the reality that water is a worldwide necessity, and its degradation, scarcity, or overabundance, as in the case of floods and tsunamis, can be problematic or disastrous for us all, wherever we live.

Conservation by way of the installation and use of low-flow showers and toilets, taking fewer showers, flushing only when necessary and turning off the tap when we brush our teeth are tactics that Irland hopes everyone will employ. Others include designing region-appropriate landscaping and gardening, and education via water fairs for communities, with a focus on children, whom she points out, are "the next generation to care for the waters of the world."

In this way, according to Irland, people can become "intimately familiar with bodies of water in [their] area, and practice reverence and respect for all who share these waters."

She pointed to many examples of water conservation that one can utilize. Vacuum toilets, similar to the ones in airplanes, use little water: wastes are kept in tanks and composted to produce bio-gas for fuel. Instead of paving our ground with impervious cement, porous roads and parking lots allow rainwater to recharge the aquifer. And because water is used in manufacturing consumer products, purchasing only what is necessary cuts down on water consumption.

You can use the to see how much water is used in your sandwich, your clothes, or your gadgets.

Knowledge about and reverence for water has never been as important as it is today.

Irland has produced several projects that relate directly to drought. One of her short video pieces is entitled "Book of Drought: A Water Memory." The liner notes for the CD cover read: "In many places around the world the memory of water is more tangible than the physicality of water itself. The implications of this are enormous, including a loss of crops, lack of clean water, and a huge increase in environmental refugees."

 Basia Irland)"Book of Drought." Carved wooden book, dried mud, matte medium. (Photo: Basia Irland)

The video begins with a quote from "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot. Next, the camera pans across mud cracks on the surface of an open sculptural book and we hear: "This book is constructed of parched field notes dry with dehydrated paragraphs preserving an arid script charting fluctuating droughts through past, present and future generations. The pages are chapped, brittle and sunbaked."

Then the narrator goes on to list the devastating loss of crops across large swatches of Australia, Eastern Cuba, Nicaragua, the American Southwest, the Middle East, Central Africa, Asia and Haiti. Amazingly, 28,000 of China's more than 50,000 rivers have gone dry due to over consumption. With ACD, the mountain glaciers that give birth to streams and creeks are drastically receding, and a lot of them will disappear altogether.

"Can we imagine a world with no rivers?" Irland asked.

A Biographer of Water

"Water needs many biographers, because in truth it is not a personality but more like a culture to itself, with laws, arts and a unique history and geography." —Philip Ball, H2O: A Biography of Water

Irland has addressed drought through her art in many ways. For example, she has constructed small-scale rainwater harvesting systems. She was commissioned by the Albuquerque Museum to create a fountain, but she refused because it would have required using potable ground water. After a month, she called the museum director back and asked if she could put a stock tank on the roof of the museum. Much to her surprise, he said yes. The water flows from the tank to a set of cast bronze arms, modeled after her own arms, so the water drips from one hand to the next and then outside the museum to water plants. The only time this fountain works is when there has been moisture, thereby making the ecosystem where she lives visible. (See lead photo)

In another project, the University of New Mexico Student Union Building (SUB) was in the initial stages of being renovated. Irland met with the architect and asked him where the rain would be collected to feed xeric plants (plants whose habitat is very dry) on campus.

He told her they had not thought of this aspect of the building, and that all the roof water would automatically go into a storm drain system.

"We located a place at the northwest corner of the SUB where a drain could be installed on the roof to funnel any precipitation down to the ground level, thus watering a small garden," she explained. "This water exits into an underground drip hose. If there is too much rain, it circumambulates the garden in a gravel swale, and then enters a drain that goes directly to the river."

Thus, the pattern reminds people of the hydrologic cycle: Water comes down as rain, is utilized to feed the plants, flows to the river and on to the sea, evaporates to form clouds, and then the cycle begins again. An etched tile plaque at the site reads: "Harvested on the roof, scarce rainfall flows to a subterranean drip system. Overflow circles the xeric fragrance garden in a stone swale, and then drains to the Río Grande."

Surrounding the garden is a wall of ceramic tiles with words for "water" in 63 languages, such as Wai, Nero, Agua, Eau, Pani, Amanzi, Paahu, Maji, Maille, Uisge, Akvo, Vann, Thuk, Bishan, Voda, Su.

In 2008 US hydrologists were warning that drought across the American Southwest had already become a "quasi-permanent condition." By then, there was already a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead, the water supply to what amounts to the fifth-largest economy in the world (when you combine the economies of California, Nevada and Arizona), could run dry by 2021.

And it's happening across the world as ACD and human development progress. Rivers are drying up. A 2009 study looking at stream flows on 925 of the world's largest rivers from 1948 to 2004 found that twice as many of them were falling as rising. "During the life span of the study, fresh water discharge into the Pacific Ocean fell by about 6 percent, or roughly the annual volume of the Mississippi," it reported, according to the Guardian.

Knowledge about and reverence for water has never been as important as it is today.

Irland's art beautifully weaves in the critical threads of conservation and education, along with her reverence for water and its role in life and on Earth. Her work has set her apart as one of the liquid realm's most eloquent biographers.

Perhaps each of us can contribute to the biography of water, becoming more conscious of its significance -- and thereby dedicating ourselves to its conservation.

Categories: News